Artists' abode is loving work in progress

Dream home

Garret: A Sykesville couple didn't just build a garage, they built a separate building with an art studio on top.

July 04, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

It took Claudia and Wiley Purkey more than a year to find their dream home and more time than they can remember to remodel it. The recent addition of a separate combination garage and an artist's studio has made their Sykesville residence a place they never want to leave.

A patio and terrace separate the home and the new two-story structure. The buildings match perfectly, with the same brick exterior, the same windows and the same roof pitch.

"We have created space to do the things we genuinely love without overwhelming our house," Mr. Purkey said.

Sykesville, a town of about 3,500 in southern Carroll County, could become an artists' colony, he said. At least five residents have added studios to their older homes recently.

"It is just the vitality of the town," he said. "People are spending money building additions that match their homes. These are not cinder-block garages. We are seeing people artistically take advantage of previously unused space."

A dozen years ago, Sykesville was new to the Purkeys. They had grown frustrated after months of searching for a house that suited their artistic tastes. Then lightning struck as they were driving through downtown Sykesville with a real estate agent.

The agent asked what kind of house the couple wanted. Mr. Purkey had only to look down Main Street to a brick cottage.

"I said, `Something like that right there,' and then I noticed the sale sign," he said. "We went through the front and out the back and said, `We'll take it.' We could see through problems to the potential."

The 1930s house had age, charm and a front porch.

"We are both artists," said Mrs. Purkey. "Visual appeal has a lot to do with what we like."

Her only stipulation was "an old house that Wiley could work on and have fun with." But, she admits, the "neat, old porch" really sold her.

The Purkeys, who have always lived in small towns, fit right into Sykesville. He served a term on the town council and is a member of the local historic district commission. He walks to his framing business down the street.

"I have always lived near a river, a railroad and a bridge," he said. "I can't remember a time when I couldn't hear the train whistle."

Mrs. Purkey, a graphic artist for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., calls Sykesville "a sleepy town, untouched by industry," where everything is within walking distance. "It has grown, but kept its small town atmosphere."

The two-story Purkey home really puts the couple at the center of town life. The porch overlooks Main Street, while landscaping affords privacy. An English hedge frames the front gate. A towering spruce tree was planted in 1904 -- in what became their front yard -- to commemorate the incorporation of the town. Terraced gardens behind face the Town House, the municipal seat.

The Purkeys are the third owners of the home but the only ones to have used it solely as a residence. Previous owners had an insurance office and a hair salon on the first floor.

The couple refinished floors, removed paneling and redid the original stucco finish. They installed light fixtures -- antique replicas with leaded glass. He meticulously replaced all 30 windows, keeping the original look. They remodeled the upstairs bath, adding thick glass blocks to the shower and three skylights.

They remodeled the kitchen, painted the walls a warm peach and topped the streamlined European-style cabinets with a collection of cookie tins. They moved the laundry upstairs. Why not? A drop-down ironing board was already there, hidden in the wall.

Many original touches have endured, including the thick yellow glass in the windows near the fireplace in the living room -- "a room that always looks sunny," he said.

The downstairs bathroom has the original rounded corner tub and pedestal sink. A collection of blue medicine bottles lines the window ledge.

A few years ago, the couple thought they would have to embark on another lengthy search. They needed a two-car garage and studio space, both for display and for his art work, mainly paintings. There seemed no way to add onto the house without detracting from its historical character. Still, they hesitated to move.

"Once you are in Sykesville, it is hard to be satisfied with anything else," he said.

So, they decided to give up yard space and build a separate structure, which he designed, behind the house. Some materials came from the house and their collections, including a stained glass window and an oak door.

The building has wainscoting and a wooden staircase to the second-floor studio, where skylights face north, letting in an artist's best light.

In the fall, he puts the easels aside and sets up his extensive train collection -- which can all be stored under the drawing tables.

"The studio is all Wiley's and it makes me happy because it holds all his stuff," says his wife. "But, when we do the basement, that space will be mine."

The Purkeys' home has become the ideal showcase for their extensive collection of pottery, paintings, crafts, porcelain dolls and model trains.

"We started collecting while we were dating," she said. "Our favorite pastime is auctions and flea markets."

They personally know many of the artisans whose works they own. "I have even watched many of these things being made," he said.

Years of remodeling and restoration have returned the home to its original charm. Still, it seems to be a never-ending work in progress, she said.

"We have done a lot to the house, but there is still a lot of renovation to do," she said. "This house is a great hobby that will continue. We look back and think what a blessing it is. It is a fun, happy and warm home."

"I just wish we had time to swing on the front porch," she said.

Pub Date: 7/04/99

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